Pitcher Plant Care And Tips: Everything You Need To Know

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When it comes to meat hungry plants, your first thought probably goes to the Venus flytrap or that cross-breed in The Little Shop of Horrors. But they're not the only carnivorous plant-life in town. There's also the pitcher plant. And when it comes to pitcher plant care, we have a lot to learn.

The thing about the pitcher plant is that it's unique. Whether you choose to grow them inside or out, you're sure to have a conversation piece. So, what do you need to know about pitcher plant care? Well, the first step is to meet the pitcher plant itself.

Pitcher plant

image source: pixabay.com

A pitcher plant looks like the type of plant you would find in some exotic rain forest because of their one-of-a-kind look and interesting survival function.

But they're much more local than you think.

In fact, if you live in a humid coastal region of the United States, the pitcher plant may be living in your back yard.

Pitcher plants love the sun, and they thrive in open wetlands, so if that's your environment, you're likely to find a nice variety in your area. They're found mostly in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina.

You will find others creeping up the east coast all the way to Canada, but those are a slightly different species of pitcher plant. They've adapted to survive in the cooler weather, but their basic function is the same.

While the wild varieties don't need anything special from you to live, if you're going to grow your own, you'll need to know about pitcher plant care.

A Slippery Slope

We know that the pitcher plant is carnivorous, but how exactly does it get a meal? After all, it can't very well uproot itself and go running in a field. Although that would be a sight and an excellent idea for a scary cartoon.

But no. Pitcher plants don't have to go to such lengths to get a healthy meal.

They produce a sweet smelling nectar that bugs can't resist. Ants, crickets, flies, wasps, mice, and the like come from all around to gobble up the scrumptious goo. But the pitcher plant's shape is deep, and once an insect, bug, or small animal crawls inside to take a sip, it's trapped.

The inside walls of the plant are slippery, and the cup is so deep, they can't get out. When the plant's prey gives up, it's all over. The nectar's chemicals absorb the nutrients, and the plant lives on.

Sound gruesome? Maybe so, but it's the circle of life. As you can see, in the wild, the pitcher plant can care for itself just fine.

You Can't Have Just One

There are eight species of pitcher plants, although various hybrids exist in the wild. All of them, though, fall under the species Sarracenia. The different subspecies of pitcher plants are:

  • Alata
  • Flava
  • Leucophylla
  • Minor
  • Oreophila (endangered)
  • Psittacina
  • Purpurea
  • Rubra

As long as you have the right environment, you can grow any of these species. You can buy seeds for as little as $ to $ or a plant for $ to $$ a piece.

That's quite a range, but as I'm sure you can guess, the rarer the plant, the more expensive.

Growing Your Own Pitcher Plant

Pitcher plant

image source: pixabay.com

There are a couple of ways to grow pitcher plants, and the way you'd like to grow them will determine the exact pitcher plant care. You can grow them from seed, from a cutting, or buy one already grown and simply care for it.

Seed

Since pitcher plant care involves a lot of humidity, that's just what they need to germinate. So, the best thing to do for your pitcher plant seed is to choose a pot with a lid -- think terrarium.

And, you'll want to watch it grow, so choose a clear container or at least make sure the top is clear for easy viewing. Here's what else you'll need to get started:

  • Peat or sphagnum moss
  • Fungicide
  • Silica or river sand
  • Perlite

Pitcher plant care from seed requires stratification. That means you have to put the seeds in a cold location for months before you try to germinate them.

Take your pot and fill it with peat moss, sand, and perlite -- at a ratio of 2:1:1. Spray the seeds with a fungicide to prevent mold and place them on top of the mixture. Then take the pot and put it in a warm place for a few days.

Next, move the pot to the refrigerator for six to eight weeks. That's your stratification. Once that's done, move them to a bright sunny spot in your house and keep the seeds moist.

Germination can take months, so if you choose this method, you'll need lots of patience. The only pitcher plant care done at this stage is keeping the soil moist and the humidity high.

Note: The bed you made for your pitcher plant seed is the best combination for growth in all stages of its life.

All There Is to Know About Pitcher Plant Care

Pitcher plant

image source: pixabay.com

Once your pitcher plant starts to grow or is already grown, you'll need to know more about its care.

The thing you need to remember is, even though pitcher plants start off slowly, once they grow, they're very hardy. Pitcher plant care is minimal, but there are some key things you have to keep in mind.

Location Location Location

While pitcher plants are pretty tolerant when it comes to the weather, they must have full sun. They love it, and they need it. When thinking of pitcher plant care, be sure to pick a sunny spot in your yard or a sunny window for them to thrive.

If you don't, they'll be weak, and their vibrant color will be dull.

Above we mentioned that they love humidity and to think of lids and terrariums when considering pitcher plant care. But note, that's only true during the germination process.

Once they start to grow, they need as much sunlight as they can get with no lid and space to grow.

So when you're choosing your pitcher plants, be aware of how big they'll get full grown. You don't want a three-foot-tall meat-eating pitcher plant on your windowsill. Right?

They're Not Bears, But...

Pitcher plant care instructions wouldn't be complete without letting you know that these plants hibernate. We don't want you surprised when your outside plants start to brown and die back.

And, like bears, they don't choose to hibernate -- they must hibernate. Yes, we're also talking about your indoor pitcher plants.

Outside plants from November through February will take care of the hibernation process all on their own, but your indoor plant friends are going to need your help. So, you have to move them somewhere colder.

You could move them to your garage, a shed, or anywhere cold for the winter, so they can do what they need to do: sleep.

Once they're sleeping, you can trim them back if they have any dead leaves and when they're about to wake up, divide them. You don't have to, of course, but if they're getting too big and you want more pitcher plants, divide them to create an identical plant. A clone, if you will.

Water The Pitcher

If there's one thing to remember about pitcher plant care, it's the water.

You can't just fill up a cup at the sink and dump it onto a pitcher plant. You'll make it sick. I know, you drink that water, why can't the pitcher plant?

The pitcher plant evolved so it could survive in soil low in nutrients. To make up for that, it derives the minerals and nutrients it needs from the animals it eats. So, if you give it water with too many minerals in it (tap, bottled, filtered), you're overloading your new friend.

Instead, do this:

Collect rainwater and watch your plant's health soar. Also, pitcher plant care during its growing season is different than it's the dormant season.

During the growing season, don't water them from the top. Instead, sit your plant pots in about an inch of water. When they're sleeping, keep their bed only damp, not wet.

Pitcher Plant's Insatiable Appetite

Now about that meat. A plant has to eat, and your new pitcher plant is a carnivore, and that means steak. Well, not exactly, but since the pitcher plant doesn't get any nutrients from its soil or its water, and we don't fertilize it, the only place it can get what it needs is from the food you provide.

And what is that food?

Well, if your pitcher plants live outside, they'll catch food for themselves using the method we discussed above. But if they dwell indoors, you have to provide the insects.

We recommend feeding them dried insects every three weeks or so. They're particularly fond of dried crickets. Just drop some into their pitchers and let nature do the rest.

Step into the Pitcher Plant World

Pitcher plant

image source: pixabay.com

Now that you know all there is to know about pitcher plant care, you see how easy these interesting and exotic plants are to keep.

Whether you're growing them outside to keep the ant population in check or inside because they're so cool to look at, you'll know that what you have is special.

You've had petunias and impatiens, your house is filled with pathos, and that crunchy brown plant in the corner -- you don't know what that is. It's time for something new.

And the truth is:

You don't even need a green thumb. All you need is a nice moss bed, sunshine, rainwater, and a handful of dried crickets and you're set.

Have you ever seen a pitcher plant in the wild? Have you ever tried to grow them? Tell us all about it in comments!

Kim Russell
 

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